Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 7

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystOctober 17, 2016

Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 7

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    How 'bout them Cowboys? 

    More like, "How do you stop them Cowboys?" America's Team made mincemeat of the Bengals in Week 5. The Cowboys then made an average quarterback out of Aaron Rodgers in Week 6. If you're not impressed with Dallas' rookie-led offense and swarming defense, you probably don't know football.

    Dak Prescott and Co. aren't the only ones climbing my Week 7 power rankings. Kansas City is inching its way back up. Buffalo is too. And you're going to want to see where the Seahawks sit after a narrow home victory.

    Some quick ground rules for any newcomers: I use two factors to rank these teams: A) how they looked through six weeks of play and B) how they're set up going forward.

    Don't like where your team landed? I'm at @CSimmsQB on Twitter; hit me up if you feel like venting.

32. San Francisco 49ers

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    Current record: 1-5

    Last week: 30 (-2)

    Take records out of the equation. There's not a worse team in football than the one Chip Kelly coaches.

    Colin Kaepernick showed promise as a runner with vision. But he isn't going to magically solve all of the 49ers' offensive problems. And No. 7 pulled a Blaine Gabbert and missed on a few very simple throws in Week 6.

    Then there's the defense. LeSean McCoy might still be running after a pitiful tackling and contain effort. Case in point: McCoy's draw play on a 3rd-and-20. He actually got a first down on it.

    Looking forward: Doug Martin might hurry back in Week 7. He's playing the 49ers rush defense.

31. Cleveland Browns

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    Current record: 0-6

    Last week: 32 (+1)

    This is the worst start the Browns have had since 1999.

    That's bad, but it's not worst-team-in-the-NFL bad. They're out of the cellar this week.

    Why raise a 0-6 team? I like the way Cleveland fights. People were quick to dismiss Cody Kessler, and then he put up 336 yards against a good Titans defense. Danny Shelton and the Cleveland defense stood up to the challenge of a scary Titans rushing attack too. These are blocks to build on.

    I don't understand Hue Jackson's decision to go for two with two minutes, seven seconds left—it effectively ended the game. But at least the Browns were in the game with that much time left, right?

    Looking forward: Hue Jackson played a huge role in Andy Dalton's development. You'll see it on full display when Dalton tears up Jackson's new team.

30. Miami Dolphins

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    Current record: 2-4

    Last week: 31 (+1)

    Go ahead and judge Jay Ajayi for what he just did for your fantasy team.

    I'll judge him by the real, tangible balance he brings to this Dolphins offense. Pittsburgh attacked Miami the way any other team would by setting its safeties back and anticipating the pass. That can no longer happen if Ajayi's punishing runs keep coming.

    Credit the five guys blocking in front of him too. Yes, the Steelers played without many healthy impact defenders (Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ryan Shazier). But this is the first time we've seen Adam Gase's Dolphins offense as the bully and not the bullied. It suits the team well.

    Byron Maxwell's coverage ability was another welcome sight. An injured Ben Roethlisberger tossed dead ducks up for grabs; No. 41 capitalized. Miami needs this version of Maxwell at corner going forward.

    Looking forward: Rex Ryan's defense offers a much tougher test of Tannehill's progress.

29. Chicago Bears

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    Current record: 1-5

    Last week: 28 (-1)

    We've seen Tracy Porter at his highest, intercepting a Peyton Manning pass to win Super Bowl XLIV.

    We just saw him at his lowest. The veteran cornerback slipped out of his break in the closing minutes of Sunday's game. His team's chances of winning slipped with him.

    Porter's gaffe—a 51-yard touchdown allowed to Arrelious Benn—let the Jaguars take a game they had no business winning. Chicago controlled the first three quarters and led 13-0. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was surgical in his play.

    The fourth quarter isn't Chicago's specialty, though.

    Looking forward: An angry Aaron Rodgers on a short week? That's no fun for John Fox.

28. New York Jets

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    Current record: 1-5

    Last week: 23 (-5)

    Todd Bowles claims his long-awaited quarterback swap is just a one-week deal.

    Is anyone actually buying that? I'm not. Bowles' team is 1-5 with two games against the Patriots left on the schedule. Now's the perfect time to evaluate turnover machine Geno Smith. Same could be said for Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Bowles should leave no stone unturned in preparation for 2017.

    But of course, he won't. Just like his defense won't address its perpetual need for a linebacker. The Jets actually played better with 290-pound Sheldon Richardson at middle linebacker. Darron Lee proved incapable of standing in David Johnson's way (111 yards, three touchdowns) before his injury exit.

    Looking forward: Whichever quarterback gets the start in Week 7 will have to carry the Jets again. Baltimore doesn't allow rushing yards.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Current record: 2-3

    Last week: 27 (same)

    Did we just witness a career-defining moment for Blake Bortles?

    If so, it wasn't pretty. Jacksonville's signal-caller didn't get his team on the board until the fourth quarter. He was showcasing all his typical issues too: long windup, bad pocket presence, etc.

    Blame a slipping Tracy Porter or the turf at Soldier Field, but Bortles came through when his team needed a big comeback. His defense held up its end of the bargain—particularly Jalen Ramsey, who blanketed Alshon Jeffery in the second half.

    Looking forward: Can the improving Jaguars make it three in a row? A home game against Oakland stands in their way.

26. Carolina Panthers

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    Current record: 1-5

    Last week: 20 (-6)

    There was a time when this Carolina Panthers team sat at No. 1 in my power rankings.

    It feels so long ago. A lot can happen over seven weeks when you field the worst secondary in football.

    General manager Dave Gettleman has to take some blame for this 24-spot skid. He seemingly welcomed the departure of Josh Norman this offseason—an imperfect cornerback for sure but ideal for Carolina's defense. His contingency plan? A haul of rookies who don't add up to half of Norman's production.

    Take Zack Sanchez. He was playing on the Panthers practice squad a few weeks back. Now he's suddenly a starting cornerback with Bene Benwikere's departure. Brandin Cooks smoked him on an 87-yard play.

    You want the sad truth? Defensive back play has rendered the Panthers defense useless. Cam Newton can play as well as he can, and it won't matter. The Panthers will still be one of the worst teams in football.

    Looking forward: Carolina could've used an early bye week to regroup. It'll get one in Week 7 instead.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Current record: 2-3

    Last week: 25 (same)

    Jameis Winston and his crew had the week off.

    They'll likely bring Doug Martin back into the fold with a chance to regain some offensive balance, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. The Buccaneers will have a shot to move back up these rankings too.

    Looking ahead: A trip out west to face the reeling 49ers. Tampa Bay can say a lot about its chances by taking care of business.

24. San Diego Chargers

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    Current record: 2-4

    Last week: 29 (+5)

    How about the Chargers' latest rookie class?

    There's better-late-than-never Joey Bosa, who looks like an absolute force rushing the passer. There's tight end Hunter Henry, who has surpassed Antonio Gates already in terms of production. Linebacker Jatavis Brown won't give Manti Te'o's job back. And punter Drew Kaser can boom 'em.

    All four played a huge role in a season-saving win last Thursday night. Their contributions, coupled with Philip Rivers' speedy decision-making, might have saved Mike McCoy's job this week.

    Looking ahead: A cross-country flight to take on the Falcons is next. That's a tough scheduling break for a team with a little momentum.

23. New Orleans Saints

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    Current record: 2-3

    Last week: 25 (+2)

    Sean Payton kept his offense on the field on a crucial fourth-down play.

    His call? A tight end sweep to Coby Fleener. The lesson? We cannot underestimate Payton's offensive genius coming off a bye week.

    That's not to say his team is finally off the schneid. I have negative faith in this defense; that's how much I don't trust it to make a stop. The Saints allowed 34 or more points in four of their five games, including the latest 41-38 win.

    Cam Newton turned a 21-0 deficit into a 38-38 tie. The Saints are lucky Payton and Drew Brees can occasionally pull one out.

    Looking forward: Marcus Peters is no rookie cornerback. Don't expect any easy Brandin Cooks scores this weekend.

22. Tennessee Titans

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    Current record: 3-3

    Last week: 26 (+4)

    "Exotic Smashmouth" wasn't working for Tennessee on Sunday.

    So the Titans used a different offensive approach to win in Week 6. Head coach Mike Mularkey should be thrilled with the results.

    It was Marcus Mariota—not DeMarco Murray—who led the Titans down the field. The former No. 2 overall pick connected on 17 throws for 284 yards and three touchdowns, including the one you've probably seen to Kendall Wright. Rishard Matthews added 70 yards of his own, including a score on a timing curl route that showcased his rapport with Mariota.

    Both guys are crucial to the development of this offense; Cleveland and others can't stuff the box without paying the price.

    Looking ahead: Almost every front seven starter got a sack last week. Let's see how they all fare against Andrew Luck.

21. Indianapolis Colts

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    Current record: 2-4

    Last week: 22 (-1)

    Chuck Pagano's team was thriving for 56 minutes.

    The Colts were rushing the ball better than at any point since Andrew Luck arrived. They were stopping the run and playing the pass better than at any point since Peyton Manning played there.

    Then Lamar Miller turned into Barry Sanders. Brock Osweiler turned into Kurt Warner. When Andrew Luck missed on a few game-icing throws, the meltdown was on.

    Indianapolis had a great chance to get back in the AFC South hunt, but it couldn't capitalize.

    Looking forward: First Lamar Miller. Now DeMarco Murray. Can the Colts stop any rival running back?

20. Los Angeles Rams

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    Current record: 3-3

    Last week: 18 (-2)

    No DeAndre Levy. No Haloti Ngata. And still no sign of a Rams running game.

    Todd Gurley ran for 15 yards on Los Angeles' first play. After that, he gained 43 yards on 13 carries. He couldn't break through on a 4th-and-goal from the Lions' 1-yard line to end the first half either.

    Case Keenum is carrying this Rams offense. Despite his impressive stats (19 straight completions!), the Rams won't win many games with him as their focal point. L.A. needs to find a way to spring its star player.

    That's doubly true when you consider the Rams defense was just as short-handed as Detroit's. The Rams' top cornerback was E.J. Gaines for crying out loud. How about a little ball control to keep whoever is left fresh?

    Looking forward: A make-or-break home game against the Giants. The home fans just need to travel to London to see it.

19. Detroit Lions

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    Current record: 3-3

    Last week: 21 (+2)

    Matthew Stafford can shred any defense, let alone one that played without its top cornerback in Week 6.

    My main question: Should Detroit need him to? Stafford was able to exploit Los Angeles' coverage without Trumaine Johnson, but only because the Rams were able to exploit the Lions' coverage with Darius Slay.

    It tells you a lot about this team when Stafford needs to go throw for throw with Case Keenum. Or when Golden Tate needs to match Kenny Britt's output.

    Detroit is too one-dimensional as an offense and too injured as a defense to win with any consistency. Until the Lions return some help from the trainer's room, they'll hover in this neighborhood.

    Looking forward: Kirk Cousins vs. Matt Stafford? Prepare the pyrotechnics.

18. Arizona Cardinals

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    Current record: 3-3

    Last week: 19 (+1)

    Arizona's offensive play-calling in one word? Brilliant.

    Everyone and their sister expected a deep-ball-centric attack from Bruce Arians. He was a step ahead; pass-catchers from John Brown to Jaron Brown faked the long pattern only to cut back for easy completions. Carson Palmer could cruise with those throws and David Johnson's heavy lifting.

    Meanwhile, the Cardinals are recapturing their old defensive form. The sacks weren't there in Week 6, but Tyrann Mathieu was. Teams are testing his lateral quickness on drag routes and pick plays; the Honey Badger is looking better every week. Only five teams field a better scoring defense than Arizona's right now.

    Looking forward: Gut-check time. The Seahawks are coming to town Sunday night.

17. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Current record: 2-4

    Last week: 11 (-6)

    This Cincinnati offense is allergic to the end zone.

    The Bengals have scored 10 touchdowns all season—only the Texans, Vikings and Jets have scored fewer. Those three teams don't field a quarterback like Andy Dalton and a top talent like A.J. Green.

    It's almost inexcusable…until you review the rest of Dalton's weapons. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill are averaging 3.5 yards per carry in 2016. There's no second option in this passing game worth mentioning. And starting tackle Cedric Ogbuehi had to take a seat in the third quarter.

    I understand why the defense couldn't contain Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. I don't get why this offense can't find capable blockers or any in-game rhythm.

    Looking forward: It's a good week for Cincinnati to get the Browns at home...right?

16. Baltimore Ravens

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    Current record: 3-3

    Last week: 12 (-4)

    We didn't learn anything new about this Ravens team in Week 6.

    It would allow the Orioles hang around for two or three quarters, let alone the Giants. Once again, Baltimore paid dearly for it and forked over a win it should have had. The 3-3 record doesn't surprise me one bit; that's what .500 teams do.

    Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can install Terrance West run plays and deep play-action shots. He can't install a kill drive in this group. The Ravens are the kings of illegal formation penalties, and each one seems to erase a game-changing play.

    They didn't have the horses to cover Odell Beckham Jr. in crunch time. Few teams do. But it should have never come down to his 66-yarder.

    Looking forward: If they can't close out Geno Smith/Ryan Fitzpatrick/Fireman Ed, they can't close out any opponent.

15. New York Giants

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    Current record: 3-3

    Last week: 17 (+2)

    I have one word for anyone who says they're tired of Odell Beckham Jr.'s "antics."

    Scoreboard.

    Want Beckham to stop kissing the kicking net? Cover him. Want him to stop triple-jumping in the end zone? Keep him out of it. Until then, don't come after the best receiver in football. He single-handedly kept the Giants in the game in Week 6.

    They needed every bit of OBJ's big day. Eli Manning was off and sloppy, despite a 400-yard passing game. Rashad Jennings didn't kick-start any type of ground game. Ereck Flowers was smoked yet again. And the defense couldn't get pressure unless it brought defensive backs.

    Impressive? Not at all. But the Giants have Beckham, and that was enough.

    Looking forward: Double Aaron Donald and get this run game going in London.

14. Houston Texans

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 16 (+2)

    I've already declared the Brock Osweiler experiment to be a failure.

    That opinion probably won't change. My opinion on this Texans team with a fully operating Lamar Miller is a different story, however.

    Miller can be electric if his offensive line opens holes for him. He can even be electric when six Colts defenders converge on him for a touchdown-saving tackle. Osweiler deserves no credit for this.

    Jadeveon Clowney was just as impactful on the other end. It won't show in his sack numbers, but Clowney wins on every snap he takes.

    Looking forward: You haven't seen a deer-in-headlights look until you've seen Brock Osweiler against this Broncos defense.

13. Oakland Raiders

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 10 (-3)

    Alex Smith's jersey was white and crisp for all four quarters.

    You could hardly tell he played a game in the O.co Coliseum mud. That's a huge issue if you're Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.

    Oakland's defense isn't bad. It's terrible. Del Rio must have known the Chiefs' attack strategy: run the ball and throw quick passes. Yet 11 defenders wearing silver and black were helpless to stop Smith or Spencer Ware from gutting their group.

    By now, it's clear Derek Carr and Co. are doomed if they can't put up points in bunches. The Raiders defense is far too weak to put up a consistent fight.

    Looking forward: Blake Bortles cannot be allowed to operate in a clean pocket. He'll torch Oakland's defensive backfield.

12. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Current record: 3-2

    Last week: 7 (-5)

    Not every rookie in the Eagles' 2016 class is a gem.

    You have your Carson Wentzes—pro-ready and as impressive as any young passer in football. And then you have your Halapoulivaati Vaitais.

    It's no slight on the first-year tackle out of TCU. He was thrust into the starting lineup because of lineman Lane Johnson's mistakes. But his entry into the Eagles O-line gives opponents a weak point to exploit. Vaitai surrendered three sacks, and it should have been more.

    Philadelphia's defense isn't in huge trouble. The Eagles front is just a little too banged up right now. Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan weren't their normal run-stuffing selves. The Eagles need to heal up to stop scooting down these rankings.

    Looking forward: All that Wentzylvania hype has quieted down in recent weeks. It can pump back up with a win over Minnesota's NFC-best defense.

11. Washington Redskins

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 14 (+3)

    Washington might have something with its touches-by-committee approach.

    Matt Jones was never going to be the running back. So the team gave Robert Kelley (five rushes for 59 yards) and Chris Thompson (66 total yards) some looks. It helped Jones make the most of his carries too.

    The same goes for Washington's receivers. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson took turns as Kirk Cousins' primary receiver. Cousins looked to Jamison Crowder for big plays when those two guys were covered.

    This team still had its errors—a Cousins pick-six, an 86-yard kickoff return, etc. But it found a way to get a W.

    Looking forward: Washington heads to Detroit. One more week of big Matt Jones runs and I'll start buying the Redskins' run game turnaround.

10. Green Bay Packers

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    Current record: 3-2

    Last week: 5 (-5)

    Aaron Rodgers has every right to be frustrated through six weeks of play.

    His line can't run-block with consistency. His receivers don't get separation downfield. He constantly needs to move in the pocket in order to move this offense.

    All three items troubled Rodgers on Sunday. He might have felt pressured to make a play because his defense couldn't—its top corners were out, and its stout run play run was tested.

    So No. 12 hung in the pocket or scrambled. Dallas forced him to cough up a few footballs. In doing so, the Cowboys exposed Green Bay as the team it truly is: mediocre with an exceptional quarterback.

    Looking forward: Brian Hoyer is out-producing Aaron Rodgers in nearly every statistical category for quarterbacks. So, there's that.

9. Buffalo Bills

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 15 (+6)

    Rex Ryan is deploying his dream defense right now.

    Zach Brown and Lorenzo Alexander (two combined sacks) continue their standout seasons. That secondary is flying around. And we haven't even seen Marcell Dareus yet.

    Ryan has the offense to match. These Bills remind me of his early Jets teams—power running to complement all the exotic defensive stuff Ryan loves. No team plays better with a lead.

    Only the Dallas Cowboys get this much production from running backs. LeSean McCoy is playing like it's 2011. In fact, his three-touchdown effort in Week 6 is his first since that year. He needs to be mentioned in any MVP discussions starting right now.

    Looking forward: Le'Veon Bell could've had 175 rushing yards against Miami last week. Let's see if the Bills let McCoy try.

8. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Current record: 3-2

    Last week: 13 (+5)

    We all benefit when Andy Reid comes off a bye week.

    Take Reid's awesome Dontari Poe touchdown call. A head coach who doesn't boast a 16-2 after-the-bye record might have been afraid to draw up a screen pass for a 342-pound nose tackle. Not Andy.

    That confidence felt contagious in Week 6. Sure, the Chiefs let Derek Carr march right down the field to start the game. They also let Amari Cooper catch pass after pass. Reid's team clamped down on both with tougher coverage and ball-control offense.

    Spencer Ware (24 carries, 131 yards) and Jamaal Charles (nine carries, 33 yards) made sure the Raiders offense stayed sidelined. What a good plan by Kansas City's head coach.

    Looking forward: Poe should run out of the Wildcat formation in Week 7. The Saints defense wouldn't dare try to tackle him.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 4 (-3)

    Can Pittsburgh play the rest of its season at Heinz Field?

    That's where the Steelers put up a combined 74 points in Weeks 4-5. That's where they're much more impressive defensively. And that's where they probably would have run over the Dolphins.

    Except they didn't. Mike Tomlin's team didn't show up for its second consecutive road appearance—first Philadelphia, now Miami. The Steelers couldn't locate their deep-passing game or stop Jay Ajayi. I did not see that coming.

    Injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and a ton of defensive starters (Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier) keep them from dropping too far down these rankings. But they'll keep going in this direction until they prove they can win on the road.

    Looking forward: Losing Big Ben is huge. Losing him before playing the Patriots is absolutely crushing.

6. Atlanta Falcons

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 6 (same)

    Tough break for the sixth-ranked Falcons.

    No official was in position to flag Richard Sherman's late-game coverage on Julio Jones. It warranted one; Sherman turned Jones around on a crucial fourth-quarter throw. It may have cost Atlanta a win.

    The good news? Matt Ryan made a lot of big-time plays. He moved the ball despite 67 total yards from Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Dan Quinn's defense held its own despite a lack of pressure.

    Let's not forget Atlanta was one missed call away from a win at CenturyLink Field. That's an important sign.

    Looking forward: We'll find out a lot about this defense in Week 7. They're playing Philip Rivers coming off a heartbreaking road loss.

5. Denver Broncos

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    Current record: 4-2

    Last week: 3 (-2)

    We praised this Broncos defense up and down for its quarterback-stopping abilities in 2015. That same aggression is what undid Denver in back-to-back weeks this season.

    Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has to be careful about when and how he brings pressure. The best quarterbacks—the Matt Ryans, the Philip Riverses—can throw right into a blitz. And even when Von Miller and Shane Ray beat their blockers, Rivers' quick release neutralized their rush.

    Denver's offense could fix this issue if it got its defense a lead. It can't. I have no faith in Denver's passing game to move the ball after it couldn't do so against an undermanned Chargers defense.

    Looking forward: Denver's line has taken one collective big step back. Up next? Jadeveon Clowney.

4. Seattle Seahawks

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    Current record: 4-1

    Last week: 8 (+4)

    Seattle's passing game keeps showing me something every week it takes the field.

    Russell Wilson looked good. Jimmy Graham kept his early-season momentum going. The Seahawks offensive line excelled in pass protection. What's not to like?

    Answer: Seattle's running game. Its production is nowhere near the levels Marshawn Lynch left it at. The backs are there—Christine Michael and Alex Collins and C.J. Spiller. The push is not.

    I need to see a grind-it-out win before I put Seattle in Minnesota's class. The Seahawks certainly have a quarterback and defense to match up with the best, though.

    Looking forward: David Johnson on one side. Seattle's defense on the other. Winner gets a boost in the NFC West race.

3. Dallas Cowboys

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    Current record: 5-1

    Last week: 9 (+6)

    Dak Prescott couldn't have imagined a better Week 6.

    He came out throwing on the road against the Packers—something not many rookie quarterbacks have the green light to do at Lambeau Field. Prescott started hot; he completed four passes and made a statement on his first drive.

    Prescott's throws opened up running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas' line bulldozed its opponent again (on zone and power schemes) and wore Green Bay down. Then, when the Packers stacked the box, Elliott ran wide on a few toss plays.

    Dallas' defense pried the football away from Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. That was all the Cowboys needed to earn a tough road win and the third spot in my power rankings.

    Looking forward: You'll hear plenty of Tony Romo-related rumblings in the bye week. I don't buy them. Prescott has so much support in Dallas' locker room.

2. Minnesota Vikings

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    Current record: 5-0

    Last week: 2 (same)

    The Vikings won't drop a single spot after their bye week.

    They'll stay at No. 2 as my best team in the NFC, and they're not too far removed from the team in the No. 1 spot.

    What can Sam Bradford do to inch closer? He can lead his new team into Philadelphia and beat his old one in Week 7. It should make for a fun affair.

    Looking forward: Let's expand the game-flexing rules for all 17 weeks. I want to see the Sam Bradford Bowl under the lights. Don't you?

1. New England Patriots

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    Current record: 5-1

    Last week: 1 (same)

    Tom Brady claimed to feel better at age 39 than he did at age 29.

    There's no reason to doubt him. Brady has completed 76 percent of his passes at a 10.4 yards-per-attempt average since returning from suspension. His passer rating? Just a cool 135.5.

    We know about Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. This week, it was James White's turn to toy with opposing linebackers. It feels like Brady always has a pass-catching option out of his backfield.

    It also feels like Bill Belichick's defensive options are limitless. Free-agent castoff Eric Rowe went step-for-step with A.J. Green in the red zone. Late-round gem Elandon Roberts stopped Giovani Bernard at the goal line.

    Looking forward: Who's next for New England? The Roethlisberger-less Steelers.